Eli Manning and the Giants could have a lot standing in between them and getting back to the playoffs.
As disappointing as last season ended for the New York Giants, just as much promise could be said exists for the team coming up next year.
Once the draft is over and done with and New York finally wraps up its unusually noisy offseason, few could argue that the Giants would be too far removed from any playoff or Super Bowl contending conversations.
But the Giants messed up pretty badly in 2012, and there is a lot in the cards that says 2013 could repeated pretty easily.
The 2012 team was unfortunately another situation of a Super Bowl hangover. New York has been historically bad in seasons following Super Bowl wins, returning to the playoffs just once in 2008 after a 12-4 campaign (followed by a Divisional Round home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles).
Two seasons removed from a championship run is, however, no excuse for the team, historically speaking at least. For Giants fans, it can only be hoped that they will recover from whatever was keeping them hungover this past season and work out the kinks for another deep run.
But again, before any deep run comes actually getting back to the playoffs, for which the Giants will need to address five key areas in 2013 to make a possible New York redemption a reality.
David Wilson's play will determine how successful New York's run game will be next season.
David Wilson will more than likely be the starter for the New York Giants next season. And although I believe he has a lot of potential to make an impact from Day One, there will undoubtedly be at least some learning curve for the young back looking to replace a former staple in New York's offense.
More importantly, New York's running game was nothing more than mediocre in 2012. Ahmad Bradshaw broke 1,000 yards and David Wilson had some of the most exciting performances a Giants back has ever had, but it still wasn't good enough to pick up the slack when Eli Manning needed help.
David Wilson, along with Andre Brown, will be the core of New York's running attack in 2013. Their small sample sizes have shown a lot of promise for the future, but it's hard to completely ignore their inexperience.
They may be biting off a little more than they can chew in their new roles.
Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck will both have to rebound for the Giants in 2013 if they want to have a shot.
It's no secret that the defense that helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl two years ago was the same defense that held back the Giants from returning to the playoffs a year later.
Two big components who had down years were unfortunately defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, whose 2012s were nothing close to their Super Bowl season performances.
Putting significant pressure on the quarterback has driven the Giants to a majority of their successful seasons, and failing to do so has often been one of their biggest reasons for an off year.
But realistically, Tuck and Pierre-Paul will bounce back next season to at least put up numbers closer to what they are capable of. The real issues for the defense will lie in the secondary and linebacker positions, which leads us into New York's next concern...
Georgia's Alec Ogletree is not only a likely draft pick, but could also be essential to the Giant's 2013 defensive scheme.
The 2013 NFL draft may be one of the most defensive-heavy drafts off all time, and the Giants could be among the teams reaping a majority of the benefits.
With players available such as Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree and Mississippi State cornerback Johnathan Banks, the Giants can easily add a handful of players that could make an impact right away in New York's defensive scheme.
But with this much opportunity and hype about what could come from this draft, there obviously leaves just as much if not more room for disappointment.
The Giants' secondary was atrocious in 2012, and their linebacker corps left a lot to be desired (especially considering the cuts at the position so far this offseason).
And it's not as though the Giants should be expecting any rookies to be superstars in their first seasons with the team, but when so many young guys have the potential to succeed early on, New York would be pretty appreciative of any youthful boost it could receive on defense next season.
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins may be the kings in the NFC East once again.
Robert Griffin III's knee may be the most scrutinized body part in the history of Washington sports this offseason, but even with a slow recovery, 2012 showed that the Redskins are back and here to stay for a while, with either Kirk Cousins or a rehabilitating Griffin at the helm.
For the Giants, who obviously have Washington on their schedule twice a year, this is a terrible thing.
Just when the Eagles started to look content at the bottom of the division and the Cowboys were once again proving their perennial overrated nature, Washington comes out of nowhere as one of the most exciting and dangerous teams in all of football.
In their two most recent Super Bowl runs, the Giants were lucky enough to make it into the playoffs as either a Wild Card team or a 9-7 division champion, a plan of action that obviously didn't translate too well to success in 2012. And now with the Redskins (and most likely Griffin) here to stay for a while, New York will have a lot more competition within the division to not look forward to.
Nobody will matter more to the Giants in 2013 than their Eli Manning, who was too inconsistent last season.
The elite argument surrounding Eli Manning is a debate for both the past and hopefully another day a long time from today. The argument surrounding Eli Manning right now is just whether or not he can play up to his capabilities in 2013, which was miles ahead of how well he played this past season.
As Manning enters his 10th season in the NFL, he's entering the point in his career where he can either continue to play exceptionally or, somewhat justifiably, start to dip off in terms of consistency and quantity of solid performances.
Nothing will decide New York's fate more this season than which direction Eli Manning continues to move in.
If he plays like he did last season once again in 2013, then the Giants shouldn't expect anything more than another 9-7 and a first-round playoff loss at the very most. But if he can play up to the potential that led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories, than the Giants should be playoff-bound once again in 2013 at the very least.